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Free Study Guide - Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

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CHAPTER 11 the doing of it


Inman continues through the hill country, spending much time hiding from horsemen he presumes to be Home Guard. Following the map from the slave has led him to higher altitudes, which makes it feel like winter. He is wet and cold from the weather and his footpath is becoming faded and overgrown.

He comes upon a scrawny old woman who is all alone, setting bird traps. Inman speaks to her. She observes his wounds and ragged condition. He offers to pay her for a meal. She declines the money and takes him in for a few days.

She lives completely self-sufficiently in a sideshow type caravan that has been parked on top of the mountain for twenty-six years. She keeps many goats, the descendants of eight goats she had purchased decades before. They provide milk, meat, cheese, etc. and for other necessities she sells homemade medicines and pamphlets on health and salvation.

The old woman gives Inman salve and herbs to heal his wounds. They enjoy each other’s company. Inman tells her about Ada. They discuss the war. They also talk about what it has been like for the woman to live alone for so long with nothing but her goats and her drawings and notations about the life around her.

Before he leaves her, Inman offers to pay for the food and medicine. Again the woman declines, but advises Inman to watch himself on his travels.


Here we again see the theme of endurance and the effect of the landscape on the mood of the characters. Inman is cold, wet and possibly lost but he still keeps putting one foot in front of the other on his journey. Inman likens the gradient vista to the “tapering of pain from the neck wound as it healed.”

We also read a true and honest accounting of the meaning of the war to the mountain people. For the most part, it wasn’t their fight. Few if any of them owned slaves. It was as if they were fighting so that their homeland would not be invaded by change, by a strange economic system. The mountain people got caught up in the social and political savagery in a system of which they were barely a part.

CHAPTER 12 freewill savages


Ruby is on her way to Ada’s house to make breakfast and notices someone near the corncrib. She gets the shotgun and approaches him. It is her father, Stobrod. He seems an old man but is unusually well dressed. Ruby is cold toward him as she looses him from the trap.

Ruby leads Stobrod to the porch but does not allow him inside the house. She tells Ada that their trap worked, and that it is Ruby’s daddy that they caught. Ruby allows Stobrod to eat outside then shoos him away.

The next day Ada and Ruby go to the barn to check on the tobacco. Hesitantly Ada joins Ruby who is sitting straddling the hay door of the loft. They relax chewing on pieces of hay and swinging their legs ‘like boys”. Ruby covers Ada’s eyes and asks her what she hears. Ruby is disappointed that Ada hears only the wind in the trees. “Just general trees is all? You’ve got a long way to go.” Ada understands that she has only begun the process of getting to know the mountain.

They eat their supper outside that afternoon. Stobrod reappears. Ruby does not speak to him but Ada talks to Stobrod about the war. Stobrod produces an unusual fiddle with a carved head of a snake on the front and an actual snake’s rattle inside. He proceeds to tell them a long story about how his old fiddle was stolen and he hand made this one from his memory. Stobrod explains that his life has been changed by the war, and changed by his music. He played once for a dying little girl and was inspired to make up and play his own music. He lost interest in the war and stopped showing up for battles. He paid attention to the words and music of slaves and developed his own talent. Stobrod claims he now knows nine hundred tunes. He plays a tune for Ada and Ruby. They are amazed, not only at the magnificence of his music, but that such a wretched, deplorable man could find and create such beauty.


Ada truly appreciates Ruby as a friend now. Ada is an eager student of the land and Ruby forever marvels at Ada. When Stobrod arrives Ada is gracious toward him, but does not compel Ruby to alter her own feelings.

The conversation between Ada and Stobrod naturally turns to the war. This is a common topic of discussion throughout the novel even though the novel is not specifically about the war. Most times we are left with ideas about how savage the war is. However, this time, Stobrod is a symbol of deliverance. He speaks of what he has gained as a result of his experiences rather than what he has lost. He has found himself some salvation.


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Cassie, D. L.. "TheBestNotes on Cold Mountain". . 09 May 2017